Reach for the stars

This year has been the year of transformation for me. It has been a year where I decided to change things for the better. The year where I decided to look out for my own happiness!

This new outlook, took another turn with the passing of my stepdad Frans two months ago at the age of 65. It is a heartbreaking moment when someone that still has so much to give is suddenly no longer here. All I could think of during this time were the memories we created over all those years: the words of wisdom, the laughs, the tears and all the good times we shared. At the same time, it also sank in that this would be the last memory.

There was my reality check! Suddenly, he is no longer here. No more phone calls asking me how I am doing or what I am up to. He knew about my pursuit of happiness and provided encouragement and support when I needed it. Now that he is no longer here, it shows how short life can be. So why am I complaining or sweating the small stuff in life? Obviously, there are more important things in life!

I am 32 ½ now. Does this mean I just passed my half way point in life? I know you are never allowed to think like that, but still. How can you not? This only reiterated the path that I am on, is the right one. Life is too short! You cannot take it for granted. You need to make sure you enjoy every minute of it!

Even though my mindset had already slightly changed before the passing of my stepdad, the small little gift he left behind really helped. He left behind this angel coin. The coin has two sides with an angel on it. One side has the words “Faith,” “Hope,” “Wisdom,” “inspiration,” and “courage.” The other side, the one that resonated with me, has the sentence “Reach for the stars.” Obviously, I am keeping this coin close to my heart because it has a special meaning. It has taught me, more importantly, to ask myself each day if I have “reached for the stars.” Have I given it my all?

Reach for the stars coin

Frans accepted me as his own son and he loved hearing about my stories and adventures in Canada. His wish for me was to find a life filled with joy, love and happiness! The same one he experienced with my mom. I might not quite be there yet but I know for a fact that I have an angel that’s more than willing to show me the way! Now I won’t let a day go by without reaching for the stars!

#shapedforhappiness

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The Strangest Secret

One of the best things of writing this blog about my journey to happiness are the readers who have reached out to me. A lot of people have gone or are currently going through similar struggles. We just don’t know about it because it’s a topic we don’t like to open up about with others. Our society at the moment is about posting that perfect picture on social media to show how perfect our life is. What if it isn’t perfect?  What if you feel stuck? The question becomes, how do we get out of it?

Its okay to get stuck and its okay to fail or fall in life. The thing that matters is how you get back up. How will you move forward? Why would you hold off on making changes when you aren’t happy? Make the change that you want in your life today! A wise man once told me the following:

“The best day to plant a tree was 20 years ago. Next best day is today!”

I know I have dwelled on things in the past and I won’t make that mistake twice. Over the past couple of years through family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and strangers I have gotten a lot of advice. Once you share your story and talk to people its amazing the wisdom they will share with you. There are many different tools out there to help you and you just need to find out which one works for you.

Below I will share a video that a family member suggested me to watch. Its called the “The Strangest Secret” by Earl Nightgale. I do have to warn you to take your time for it because it does take 30min. However, it might be 30 minutes that will help you figure out the secret to life! In Earls words, “life should be an exciting adventure and never a bore”.

#shapedforhappiness

Drinks and Dinner with mom

How Mom brings happiness!

Aren’t moms the greatest?! Moms are always there for you no matter what, good or bad! My mom has always been there for me and has been my biggest cheerleader in life. Throughout the years she has always encouraged me to reach for the stars. Even at the age of 32 and also being an only child its safe to say I’m still her baby. Sometimes I have to remind her that I am 32 and not a baby anymore. I think as a child I was her real life Ken the Barbie doll. Ironic since my name is Kenny! My mom would always make sure I was the best dressed kid in class. I think she took pride in showing me off and I know she still does to this day! The unfortunate thing is that my mom lives in the Netherlands and I live in Canada. Thankfully, she makes sure to come visit me twice a year and last week was one of those times.

Drinks and Dinner with mom

Every time my mom comes we do three things: we shop, go for nice dinners and drink a lot of wine. Not bad, right? It a bonus that my mom is very stylish and has a good eye for fashion. Sometimes I am trying something on and she would show up with more things for me to try. Our shopping days are one of the ways we bond. My mom loves strolling to each store to help me shop and definitely outlasts me. Yet we always leave the mall with tons of shopping bags.

For dinners we like to go out and mostly always end up at the Keg (steak restaurant). Not sure why we go there but we both enjoy our steaks there. During dinner we would just talk about life and everything that’s going on it. Its more of the true heartfelt moment where we take our time over a couple of glasses of wine and talk about our ups and downs. We talk about anything and at the end I know that if there is anything she will always be there for me.

Drinks and Dinner with mom

 

It is easy to take your parents for granted. Sometimes it’s good to take a moment to look back and reflect. I am lucky to have my parents and am fortunate for everything they have done for me. The time with my mom last week was great. I can honestly say my mom is the greatest and I am lucky to have the relationship that we have. It’s tough being so far away because we only see each other twice a year. However, when we do see each other we make sure we make the most of the time we have with each other. Last week was happiness! Love you mom!

#shappedforhappiness

3 Quick tips to stay Motivated & Positive

Everyone needs a pick me up once in a while. Unconsciously, negativity can creep into our lives and take over our thoughts. We get demotivated, lazy, complain about life and work, start sweating the little stuff and worst of all we get down on ourselves. Sometimes we just need a quick reminder of all the good things we have going on in our lives. Below are a couple of handy tools that help me daily. It helps me to stay positive and be motivated!

1. YouTube motivational videos

The great thing about YouTube is that there is a video for everything. There are some great motivational videos if you need a kick under your butt! Just type in motivation and you will see different video options come up. One of my favourites is the one below. This video is one of 5 and I would recommend watching all 5. It’s a great video and I often listen to it when working out.

2. Motivational social media pages

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are great tools to follow motivational pages. Again, all you have to do is search for motivation or positivity and you will see a list of pages you can follow. A daily inspirational quote can help you maintain focus and stay in that positive mindset. Below are two examples:

Source: Daily Inspiration and Motivation on Facebook and thegoodquote on Instagram

3. Podcasts

It seems like podcast are more of an every day thing now. Often times I listen to a podcast on my way to work. Listening to a positive or motivational podcast on your way to work can jumpstart your day on a positive note.

Give it a shot and if you have any recommendations please make sure to share it in the comment section.

#shapedforhappiness

Striking a superhero pose for our photoshoot

Becoming a Big Brother

It only took 6 months, but I have finally become a Big Brother. In August of 2016, I decided to apply and volunteer for Big Brothers & Sisters in Toronto. I was talking to a counselor and she suggested it might be good for me to volunteer. She suggested it might help me with finding meaning and purpose in life, which I was struggling to find. One of the first things that came to mind right away was the Big Brother and Sisters program. I had looked at this program before but never signed up for it. I asked around a bit first because the program does require your commitment. It’s not something you just go out and do once or twice and that’s it. It’s a minimum 1-year commitment and preferably more. Nevertheless, everyone that I inquired the program about had nothing but good things to say, which made it easy to sign up!

One of the reasons I applied, besides looking for meaning in my own life, is that I wanted to give back, pass on the torch so to speak. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the guidance I received from others in my lifetime. Being able to have someone to look up to, taking you under his/her wing and provide guidance is so valuable. Even just having someone around to shoot the shit with, hang out and play sports makes a big difference. I never had any siblings growing up and in a way that was another reason for signing up.

So many activities

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So far I am only a month in but am enjoying the time with my little brother considerably. The pure joy and excitement from this kid is so contagious. We have only hung out a handful of times but I, for one, am already learning so much. It is amazing the joyfulness this kid has that even we sometimes forget about as adults. Why sweat the small stuff when there is so much more to life? In addition, it has also helped put things in perspective for me. It made me realize how fortunate I am for the life I have, how amazing my parents are, how wonderful my family is and how great my friends are.

Big Brother & Little Brother meet for the first time

I am, for one, very thankful for the people in my life that helped me across the way. It made such a difference for me that now I hope I can be the difference to someone else. In a way, I hope my little brother and I can bring meaning to each other. And that we both find our paths to greatness and happiness!

#Shapedforhappiness

On my cell phone and missing the beatiful view in front of me

Losing Focus

It has been 3 weeks since I got back from vacation and it feels like all I have done since then is work. Playing catch up, preparing for some big meetings and kicking off a couple of projects just to list a few things. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind working hard or putting in long hours. It just feels as though I haven’t done much else with my life besides work. So much so that it is affecting how I feel. I lost sight of my own goals and forgot to do even the little things that make me happy.

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I have been working from 8 am to sometimes 7 or 8 at night. To add to that, it takes at least 30 to 45 minutes to get home. By that time, I just want to lie on the couch and do nothing. Feeling exhausted, brain dead and cross eyed from looking at a screen all day. What happens next is a snowball effect of negative things. I don’t cook; therefore, I grab things on the go and eat like crap. I haven’t been to the gym which causes me to feel sluggish and, according to my scale, gain a few pounds. Furthermore, I haven’t been able to use my nights for the things I need or like to do; meet up with friends, grocery shop, look for new recipes that I could try out and many other things on my list.

I know I’m the only one to blame for how I feel. Sometimes it’s just mind over matter. Don’t tell yourself that you are tired and just keep going. It is definitely a notion that holds true in itself. Perhaps I need to work on my time management. I just don’t want to be in a cycle where I go through this in loops or where I am not working towards my goals. Obviously, I want to do well at work and do whatever it takes to grow professionally. However, I don’t want it to be at the cost of how I feel.Kanye West saying focus

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As in my first post, “The moment it hits you!,” I set myself up for a journey this year and I am planning on sticking with it. I have been taking some steps to live a more fulfilled life but I definitely still have a long way to go. One thing I do know is that I need to make more time for myself in order to do the things I want to do.

#Shapedforhappiness

Toronto Skyline

Finding a Home

My life has been a bit of a rollercoaster when it comes to finding a home. What I once considered home, isn’t really home anymore. At the same time, I could say that it still is and that I have three different homes. It all depends on how you define home. A quick glance at the dictionary would tell us the following:

one’s place of residence

a place of origin

the social unit formed by a family living together

From origin I was born and raised in the Netherlands. All of my family, including my parents, still live there. For twenty years this was my home until I decided to move to Canada. Pretty quickly Orangeville, ON became my home. It’s where, through family friends, I started my life in Canada. Though now, I don’t call them family friends, just family! Currently, I call Toronto home. For the past 3 years I have been living in Toronto. A great city, but here comes the million dollar question: what’s next?

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I have my parents and an agent friend telling me that I should buy something to get in to the housing market. Something that I would love to do, but the housing market in Toronto is absurd right now. If something pops up for sale you would have to make an offer that day and the offer should probably be 30K to 50K over asking. At the same time, I struggle with where I would want to live? If I make that kind of an investment I would want to make sure that’s where I want to be for a while! I currently live just a little west of downtown Toronto. Would I want to be a bit more downtown if I would buy something? I don’t want to keep wasting $1700 a month on rent. However, all I could afford in Toronto would be one-bedroom condo’s which on average would go for 400K. At the same time do I want to make this kind of investment or do I want to explore other opportunities?

I love living on my own! However, if I would have a roommate I could probably save an additional $500 per month, which is a lot of money! I could use that money to save for a down payment or use it to go on trips and explore the world! The downfall of this is that I would give up living on my own. Can I go back to having a roommate? How would I even find a roommate now? All my friends are all partnered up, it would likely be with someone I don’t really know. A bit of a scary thought especially if we don’t get along.

Annoying roomate (Ross from friends hand gesture)

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Perhaps, there is a way that I can still live on my own and save on rent. I could find a cheaper apartment in the suburbs. This way I am able to still live on my own and save money. However, what would I do in my free time? I am sure I would find something to do but now I would be so far away from downtown Toronto. Do I want to give up downtown and city living?

Showing differen images from downtown toronto

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Then, there is the thought of maybe doing my MBA. An MBA program is pretty much the cost of a down payment if I want to go to a respectable school. Buying something would make me committed! I wouldn’t have any savings and probably have less disposable income to do activities since mortgage, maintenance fees, and taxes would probably be more than my current rent. I think this is one of the reasons why I haven’t bought anything yet. I don’t want to be house poor either!

Lastly, there has always been the thought about moving to California. Not sure how realistic this is since it would be hard to get a green card. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily have to be California. If the right opportunity would come around I could see myself moving again. This could be within Canada or a new country. I am always open to experiencing new things. At the same time am I just hoping this would happen naturally or should I actively pursue this like I did when I wanted to come to Canada?

Kim Kardashian "I have no idea what i'm doing"

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So many questions with no answers. I don’t think any direction is right or wrong; they are all different. Home can be anywhere and it is really what you make of it. I just don’t know which home is the most suitable for me.

#shapedforhappines

Overlooking Laguna Beach

Feeling Blessed

Doesn’t it suck when you come home after an amazing vacation? I don’t know about you, but I always feel a bit sick in my stomach the first couple of days of being back. Sad to be home, sad to miss my friends in California, and sad to miss the shenanigans with the boys in Vegas. The worst part is going back to work and seeing your inbox overflowing with emails. However, I shouldn’t be feeling sad! The trip was amazing and I had an absolute blast! I’m fortunate that I was able to go on this trip and gain new friends out of it!

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The trip to California almost seems to become a regular thing now. I have gone three times in the past two years. It is honestly one of my favourite places to visit. I am not sure what it is: the laidback California lifestyle, the beach, or the 365 days of sunshine. I can’t thank my friends in California enough for letting me stay with them and taking me around. Although, the weather in California was absolutely horrible during my time there: rain, rain, rain and 1 day of sun. Didn’t I just say 365 days of sunshine? Apparently, mother nature thought different when I was there. Though, it’s a good thing for California because they need it. I didn’t let that stop me from having a good time! I got to see my favourite beaches: Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach. I got to do a little wine tasting in Malibu. I got to eat at my favourite restaurants: In-n-out, Yardhouse and Korean BBQ. More importantly, I got to see and hang out with my friends. I am honestly blessed to have such great friends and happy to gain another California experience out of it.

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Oh, and what can I say about Las Vegas? “WOW.” What a city! I am not sure why it took me 32 years to visit this place but what an experience. I’m happy I was able to celebrate my friend’s bachelor parties there. In reality, it doesn’t matter where you go as long as you go with your best friends. Friends are really all that matters, and anywhere with these group of guys would have been a blast. I would love to provide more details about my Vegas experience but, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

Vegas Strip    Mirage Hotel

It’s amazing how quick ten days go by when you are on vacation. My trip to California and Vegas was absolutely incredible. I am very fortunate and thankful that I was able to take this trip. This trip provided me with a whole new experience and friends. At the same time, it has also given me some more food for thought on what I want to do with my living situation and life. Thoughts of moving to California have seriously crossed my mind while I was there. I guess part of my journey is to see if this is something I seriously want to consider. For now, I am just grateful that I was able to go on this trip.

#shapedforhappiness

YOLO

YOLO

About two months ago two of my good friends decided to do a joint Bachelor party in Vegas. The dates for this event would be February 23rd to February 26th. It was an easy decision, and I instantly jumped all over it. When looking at the dates, I noticed that the Monday before the trip was a holiday and thoughts about visiting some friends in California before Vegas came up. In the past I would have thought long and hard about going or not since it would cost extra. However, this time I said YOLO and immediately booked it!

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In the past I have always been very good in talking myself out of things. I gave myself reasons to do things but also to not do them. I have let many opportunities go by because I talked myself out of it. It’s one of the things that I am working on changing about myself. I am trying to be more of a “Yes” man.

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In reference to Jim Carey’s movie Yes Man, when you say no all the time you aren’t living! You are missing all the wonderful things that life has to offer. It could be anything from checking out this new bar, to meeting new people, to going on trips and exploring new places. The reason for me to not go on trips in the past was due to finances. Not because I cannot afford it but that different thoughts would pop up: “I should save for a down payment instead or $1500 seems like a lot for an all-inclusive.” The worst reason I would give myself was that it was always bad timing to leave work.

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Obviously, money plays an important part in everyone’s life. In addition, you shouldn’t live above your means. However, it shouldn’t withhold you from doing things that affect your happiness. In my case, I love traveling and should be doing a lot more of it in the future! In the end it’s always easier to say “no” than “yes.” This time though, I said, “YOLO, California and Vegas it is!”

#Shapedforhappiness

Featured Image photo credit: https://speedpropertybuyers.co.uk/

Now what?

Now that you have reflected on your life and have admitted that it’s time for a change, then you are probably wondering, “now what?” How do I initiate this change? How do I get more out of life? Where do I even begin? You have already taken the first step by admitting change is needed and now it’s time for the next step. Just know that there is no wrong or right solution. Everyone has their own path in life and it’s up to you to find that path that makes you the happiest.

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Albert Einstein

My journey started by reading self-help books. With the enormous selection of self-help books out there I was thankful that I had a friend who provided me with some recommendations. I started reading the books pictured below and I believe that it helped me out of the funk I was stuck in. Reading these books really helped in changing my perspective. The books allow you to engage in a new approach to life, adopt a healthy mindset and set a new framework of thinking. There are thousands of self-help books and all of them touch in one way or another on positive thinking, the law of attraction and engaging the universe. These are all very powerful and intriguing concepts. You will find that some books will resonate better with you than others.

Self-help books

I truly appreciate the ‘engaging the universe’ concept. It is such a simple notion that we sometimes forget that it is there and readily available to anyone! If you are just binge watching Friends episodes on Netflix for the 10th time, it is unlikely that anything will change in your life. For something to happen in your life you need to take action! The trick with engaging the universe is that you have to put it in motion. In order to put it in motion you need to get off that couch and do what it is that you want to change. For example; if you want to be fit, work out! If you are not happy with your current job then look for a new one. Set a goal for yourself to at least apply to one new job every day and try networking events. If you want a relationship than embrace it and sign up for online dating or try a speed dating event. You never know who you might meet! Once you commit to something the possibilities are endless.ctgt8mn7iuzns

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Since I started reading the self-help books, I have actually been reading a lot more in general. Now I find that I do indeed enjoy reading all kinds of books, a hobby I never anticipated enjoying. I genuinely enjoy taking a book with me during a casual stroll through the city and some days I find myself at the local coffee shop pouring over the pages of the latest novel. Sometimes it’s the little things like this that can bring joy to your life.

#Shapedforhappiness

PS. If you have any book suggestion please make sure to comment. I am always looking for new books and other readers might be interested as well!